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I've just come across Boo as an extra on the DVD of Frankenstein (1931) and, due to the fact I was watching it at well past midnight, I found it as strange as it was funny. It starts off with a bearded man with a strange expression on his face emerging from a jack-in-the-box and holding up the film's title, which is a weirdly disconcerting effect, particularly as I have no idea who this man was. The narration is rather outdated, not so much because it was recorded in 1932, but because of what is said (the reference to woman automobile drivers is ever so slightly sexist), but what I don't get is, while Universal included footage from its movies 'Frankenstein' and 'The Cat Creeps', the Dracula segments actually come from F.W Murnau's 'Nosferatu'. This seems strange, because I would have thought the studio would want to publicise its own, then-recent, Dracula movie (the one with Bela Lugosi). To conclude, Boo is an oddity that you probably won't find yourself watching unless you get the Frankenstein DVD, which you ought to own anyway
Yes, you read right. "BOO" (1932) is a delightfully _unfunny_ little movie. How is that possible? Well, the narration is really, painfully lame... so lame, in fact, that it had me laughing hysterically. The narrator is just so darned enthusiastic, so sure he's being delightful, that you have to marvel at his blissful ignorance. After I saw "BOO," I couldn't help but imitate him. ("He's just like Congress!" "He's like a female automobile driver!") Add to this the "wacky" editing tricks -- endlessly repeated -- and you have the recipe for comic perfection. I think if I had seen this when I was 8 years old, I might have thought it was just about the funniest thing in the world. Seeing it as an adult, the movie's UNFUNNINESS is itself funny. It seems like a contradiction in terms, but you'll understand when you see it. You should have the DVD of "Frankenstein" in your collection anyway. Universal's done a beautiful job with it.
As time passes, it is easy to forget that films of the past were often
accompanied by co-features, newsreels, cartoons and film shorts that
added to the value of an evening out. Even if the main feature was a
desultory effort, entertainment could be found within the accompanying
Dating from 1932, Boo was a short film produced by Universal that used footage from their own Frankenstein adaption, as well as The Cat Creeps and the 1922 German version of Dracula entitled Nosferatu. With minimal new footage but clever editing, a modest yet enjoyable short was produced. Given that the film incorporates only around three minutes of new footage, production was likely limited to a single day.
Clearly a product of its time (with brisk narration bemoaning the depression and Congress' failure to deal with it), this film was likely a tolerable indulgence for film goers of the time but has become an intriguing relic of its time for the modern viewer.
On a side note, Nosferatu was ordered destroyed by Bram Stoker's widow shortly after its unauthorised production. Several prints survived and it is intriguing that a relatively clear one was available for the producers of Boo as early as 1932.
With so much of film history prior to 1950 now lost to us, the survival of Boo and its public distribution with the Frankenstein DVD provide us with an item of historical and social interest. It provides an indication of how modest resources could be used to pad out a cinema program and perhaps more importantly shows the cultural impact of Frankenstein at that time. The monster was an easily recognisable figure already and would not have been included in the short had the public not been able to instantly identify him.
Seeing a film like Boo is like opening a door to the past. Even after the door has closed the memories remain and new insight is gained by the viewer.
Whenever someone talks about horror movies of the 30s, the words
"Universal Horror" always have to appear sometime during the
conversation, as the importance of the movies done by Universal Studios
in that decade is simply unquestionable. While Universal Horror was
technically born in the 20s, it was in 1931 when it truly became a
synonym of high quality fantasy stories, as it was in that year when
the two first films of the "Golden Age" were released: Tod Browning's
"Dracula" and James Whale's "Frankenstein". Based on classics of Gothic
literature, both films became instant hits and transformed their lead
actors (Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff respectively) into legends. Due
to their great success, the two films quickly entered our pop culture
as the ultimate monster films. "Boo", a 1932 short comedy film produced
by Universal, is an early example of this.
In "Boo", a Man (Morton Lowry) is decided to have nightmares, so following the advice of the Narrator (possibly director Albert DeMond himself), he has a heavy dinner made of lobster and milk, and reads a horror novel before going to sleep. Our hero has read Bram Stoker's "Dracula", so as soon as he falls asleep, he begins to dream the horror of his lifetime. In his dream, he sees Dracula (archive footage of Max Schreck from 1922's "Nosferatu") preying on helpless humans and sucking their blood. To our hero's horror, Frankenstein's Monster (archive footage of Boris Karloff in 1931's "Frankenstein") also appears on his dream, and the Monster is willing to prey on humans too just as the vampire Count does. However, something is not right with these monsters, as their motifs seem rather dubious, or at least that's what the Narrator tries to explain.
Written by Albert DeMond, "Boo" is nothing more than a series of clips from F.W. Murnau's silent classic, "Nosferatu", James Whale's "Frankenstein" and Rupert Julian's "The Cat Creeps", everything mixed but joined together by DeMond's tale of a poor man's nightmare. DeMond's story is merely an excuse to put the clips in funny ways, putting footage on a loop or adding wacky sounds to them. In his narration, DeMond makes fun about the congress and the economical situation of their time, as well as of horror movies in general. It's all in good fun, although certainly the jokes haven't really aged well and now may sound boring and unfunny. While this can be blamed on the fact that humor has changed, in all honestly the jokes weren't that funny to begin with, although some can still bring at least a smile.
Where the movie shines is in it's use of clips from Universal horror films, as DeMond puts them out of context and makes some funny segments by playing with them. Interestingly, DeMond used Murnau's "Nosferatu" instead of Universal's own "Dracula", mainly because Lugosi's vampire was probably too elegant and good looking for his wacky spoof, so he used Max Schreck's interpretation as it was more of a monster. Of great interest is the fact that "Boo" contains what's probably the last surviving footage of Rupert Julian's 1930 horror classic, "The Cat Creeps", a movie that has been missing for years and that it's considered lost by many historians. While out of context and done for laughs, we can see bits of that now legendary film in this little short movie.
While I wouldn't say that "Boo" is a great movie, it's an interesting oddity to fans of Universal's Golden Age of horror movies, as not only it offers the only way to see a slice of "The Cat Creeps", it also shows a different view of those classic movies and how strong was their impact in those early years. Sure, as a comedy it's pretty mediocre (even for laugh tracks standards), but like most of the horror movies done by Universal, this one has a strange charm that makes it special. Not exactly a good film, but definitely a must-see for Universal horror fans. 5/10
"With times as tough as they are," intones the narrator, "we present
our formula for the cheapest kind amusement: nightmares." We see an
unkempt man in some kind of 19th century get-upcoat, vest, a black tie
with an enormous boweating lobster, drinking milk and reading
"Dracula." "We've all heard of the worm that turned," says the
narrator. "But this is the bookworm that turned. Inside out." When the
man has a feeling that's a "cross between delirium tremens and the
seven year itch" he's ready for his nightmare.
"A good nightmare always begins with a dark cellar and a coffin," he continues. As the dream progresses, we see that it consists of footage from "Nosferatu" (1922), "Frankenstein" (1931) and "The Cat Creeps" (1930). The footage is spliced together to make Dracula and Frankenstein's monster appear to be sharing the same rooms. For comic effect some footage is repeated several times, or run backwards and then forwards again. Dracula's caretaker crawls up and down the stairs over and over: "It looks as though he's having his ups and downs. He acts like Congress and always ends up where he started. This exercise is good for water on the knee, water on the brain and other naval diseases. It is also a good way to enjoy the jitters without drinking alcohol." The narrator pities the man: "If I were in his place I'd resignor at least quit." He describes Dracula's entrance: "So Dracula comes up close and shows us what the well-dressed ghost is wearing. He throws his silhouette on the wall, and the wall is so scared it looks as if it's plastered.
"And now the blood may spurt any minute." He adds dryly: "Gush, gush."
Dracula departs: "So he decides to go back to his coffin and sleep for a hundred years until Congress decides to do something about the Depression."
Frankenstein's Monster enters and "starts to look for trouble. There's so much trouble around these days, he shouldn't have any trouble finding it." The Monster dithers: "He can't decide which way to go. He's like a woman automobile driver."
The Monster watches Dracula (actually the costumed villain from "The Cat Creeps") steal a diamond necklace off a sleeping woman, studying the vampire's "tesh-nee-kyoo." (I had to replay that a couple times: it's a cutesy pronunciation of "technique.")
The short ends with the Monster reaching toward the heavens, where we cut back to the new footage and see the frightened dreamer sitting on a chandelier. "And the moral of this story is: you can milk a cow, but a lobster is very ticklish."
This film is a very close imitation of the specialty shorts Pete Smith was making for MGM: silent footage narrated with wisecracks. Even Smith's narrating voicenasally, dry, sarcastically gee-whizis mimicked. Why does this Carl Laemmle-produced film use clips from the 1922 "Nosferatu," rather than Laemmle's own "Dracula"? Maybe because unlike Bela Lugosi, the German vampire was ugly: "There's the profile that has won first prize in all the ghost beauty contests. When Dracula was born, his mother took one look at that face and had herself arrested. A guy with a face like Dracula must be a spook, or he'd have his face lifted. And the worst of it is, this spook looks screwyand there's nothing screwier than a screwy spook."
Hear the rim shots? "The caretaker decides that he might have been seeing things. Maybe his near beer was nearer than he thought." How about now?
However unfashionable the jokes, I laughed at some of them. And we can be grateful "Boo" preserves the only known surviving footage from "The Cat Creeps." Think your favorite movies will last forever? Boo!
Boo! comes as a nice little extra feature on the Frankenstein-DVD. It's definitely worth a watch as it may be one of the very first spoofs ever made. A voice-over guides footage from "Frankenstein", "Nosferatu" and some of "The Cat Creeps". Separate scary parts from both movies are perfectly edited into each other and the narrator's figurative language mostly results in subtle chuckling. Check it out when you're browsing through the DVD-extra's! It won't take much of your precious time (Boo! only lasts 10 minutes) and it's most certainly make you laugh! Much funnier than later comedies and horror spoofs. This little short is thought up by Albert DeMond who wrote an endless amount of screenplays. Merely comedy and drama.
To say Boo! is an oddity is an understatement in itself. This is a perfect example of something that is so bad it is good as it pokes fun at Frankenstein and Dracula(Nosferatu). It is true that Boo! is cheesy and lame somewhat, the pacing is rather rushed, the editing dated and the reference to woman automobile drivers rather on the sexist side, not to mention the enthusiastic if rather overdone narration. Nonetheless, it is a curious watch for the final line "you can milk a cow but a lobster is very ticklish", the so-bad-it-was-funny type of jokes and the corny haunting music. Plus it was nice to see archive footage of Frankenstein(hooray for Karloff!) and Nosferatu. Overall, by all means worth watching, but not something I would recommend highly. 5/10 Bethany Cox
Boo is a short little film featuring footage from Frankenstein and
Murnau's Nosferatu (as well as another film?) presented in a humorous
manner with a wisecracking narrator whose jokes are not great but the
whole effect is a bit bizarre and quite entertaining.
The film talks about how to create a nightmare and this film is strange enough to be a dream, but not frightening enough to be a nightmare. The use of sound effect and editing effects work in the creation of this little film.
Not a masterpiece, not even a particularly good film, but I can see it as a good little filler piece before the main attraction in a theater and I'm presuming that was its original intention.
Anyway, I liked it, so give it a viewing if you get the chance.
I watched this short film on the special features of the Frankesntein
legacy collection DVD and found it pretty darn hilarious. It's
obviously nothing amazing or to write home about but I think you'll
find it pretty entertaining if you're a fan of Nosferatu and
Frankenstein. Don't take it too seriously.
I thought the narrator was really funny and had some very clever lines. The clips from Frankenstein and Nosferatu are always great but with the commentary put over them, they were hilarious. Check this one out for a good laugh and I think you'll find yourself enjoying it for the most part. Not much else to say.
This nice and unusual little vintage Universal comedy short goes out of its way to throw in footage of the golden b/w horror films; "Nosferatu", "Frankenstein" and "The Cat Creeps". The clips ranging from these three films are strung along by a mockery-laced narration. There's no harm here, even if it can be lame and downright pointless, but its hard not get a cackle from some of the noteworthy scenes and rapturously smarting remarks. It only goes for about 10 minutes, so it pretty much breezes by with well-etch editing and the likable humour gladly doesn't overstay its welcome. Corny maybe, but that's just due to the times. This is definitely an interesting and enjoyable supplement, which is provided on Universal's Frankenstein DVD.
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